Hampden basketball forward takes on challenge as new soccer goalie

Posted Sept. 04, 2012, at 2:59 p.m.
Hampden Academy guard Zach Gilpin goes to the basket during the Class A Boys Basketball Championship game at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland in March 2012. Gilpin, now a junior, will try his hand at soccer as a goalie for the Broncos.
Hampden Academy guard Zach Gilpin goes to the basket during the Class A Boys Basketball Championship game at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland in March 2012. Gilpin, now a junior, will try his hand at soccer as a goalie for the Broncos. Buy Photo

HAMPDEN, Maine — Logan Poirier was a key defensive presence on both the Hampden Academy boys basketball and soccer teams during the last three years, and the Broncos hope a similar athletic formula will pay similar dividends on the soccer field again this year.

Junior Zach Gilpin, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged nearly 12 points per game and was arguably his team’s most versatile defender last winter as Hampden won the Eastern Maine Class A basketball championship, is playing soccer for the first time since his middle-school days and has stepped into the starting goaltending role vacated by the graduated Poirier.

“Obviously Logan Poirier last year was a three-year starter in the back and was a very good goalkeeper for us,” said Hampden soccer coach Josh Stevens, whose team reached the Eastern A final last fall. “This year going in we were fortunate enough to find Zach Gilpin off the basketball team and were able to convince him that playing goalie would be a good thing.

“He’s very athletic and very long, much the same as Logan, and we’re hoping he can have the same kind of success.”

Gilpin played travel team soccer as a fourth- and fifth-grader, then returned to the sport during his eighth-grade year by playing goalkeeper for the first time at Reeds Brook Middle School before opting to concentrate on basketball during his first two years at Hampden Academy.

Gilpin expressed his interest in returning to soccer in late July, just before the Maine Principals’ Association-mandated two-week hands-off period that precedes the start of preseason practices for fall sports in mid-August.

“I just thought it would be fun to play again,” said Gilpin. “A bunch of my friends are on the team and my brother [Nick] is on the team, too.”

Gilpin, who traveled with his Maine Athletic Club AAU basketball team throughout the summer, is still rounding into prime physical condition for soccer as the new season begins. Hampden opened its schedule with a 6-1 win at Messalonskee of Oakland last Saturday, and was slated to host Lawrence of Fairfield on Tuesday.

“Basketball shape is a lot different than soccer shape,” said Gilpin. “In basketball you’re sprinting up and down but you have stops for free throws and fouls. In soccer it’s not the same for a goalie as it is for the other guys on the field, but during practices we run so much, there’s a lot of running laps and laps, so I’m still getting in shape for soccer.”

Gilpin also is working on the more strategic aspects of his position, such as how far to come out of the goal crease to pursue the ball and the angles he can use to minimize an opponent’s chances to score against him.

“When I’m in goal I basically can do whatever I need to do to get the ball, and I’m a pretty big kid compared to a lot of the other guys so that definitely helps me out being a goalie,” he said. “I definitely try to be aggressive to the ball on corner kicks and free kicks. If I think I can get to a ball then I 100 percent go and try to get it, and even if I can just get a fist on it to punch it out, that’s better than sitting back.

“Hopefully I can just continue to get better.”

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